March: Crocus

For me, few things mark the arrival of spring like the colorful crocuses peeking up out of the ground. Whether planted in a container or scattered in lawns or flower beds, the bright gems of yellow, white, and purple spread cheer wherever they are found.

Photo by Maria Gulley

Photo by Maria Gulley

There are many species of crocus, mostly native to an area that ranges from the Mediterranean in the west to Central Asia in the east, with a southern boundary in North Africa and a northern boundary in southern Europe. Early cultivation of crocuses was geared toward the production of saffron, a spice made from the dried stamens of the flower. Crocuses made it into the Netherlands sometime in the 16th century where they began to be appreciated for their ornamental value. From there they made it into North American gardens with the help of immigrants and plant collectors. In addition to the common spring blooming varieties, there are some species that bloom in the fall.

Image source: commons.wikimedia.org, by Meneerke Bloem

Image source: commons.wikimedia.org, by Meneerke Bloem

Common Name: Crocus

Scientific Name: Crocus (various species)

Notable Varieties: Giant Dutch Crocus (a group of larger varieties), Snow Crocus (early bloomers)

Light: full to partial sun (remember that trees will have few leaves at this point, so you may have more placement options)

Size: 3-6" tall and wide, depending on species and variety

Soil: prefers good fertility and well-drained soil; won't tolerate wet soils

Blooms: shades of white, purple, blue, pink, orange, and yellow

Other Notes: allow leaves to remain until after they have wilted to allow the bulb to take in as much energy as possible for the next spring

See other plants of the month.


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